Singer, Songwriter slash Mom
Archive for November, 2007
29th Nov 2007 Posted in: Blog, Momhood Comments Off on Nana, RIP

Local musician Phyllis Kathryn ‘Kae’ Herron dies

Big band singer, songwriter, formed the Melodears in 1977

By Alicia Doyle
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

After a lifetime rich with her musical talent and fun-loving spirit, Phyllis Kathryn “Kae” Herron died Nov. 12 at her Ventura home, her family said. She was 90.

“She was a very small person, only 4 feet 10 inches tall when she reached 90 years old, but she had a mighty spirit,” said her daughter Robbie Frandsen of Los Angeles. “She remained funny, kind, gracious and humble to her very last day.”

Born April 29, 1917, in Vallejo, Herron (nee Brown) spent her teens and early 20s singing with big bands in the San Francisco Bay Area, most notably the Horace Heidt Orchestra.

Hollywood Clowns was start

In 1939, she married Bob Herron, a naval officer, and they had two daughters, Melody and Robyn. Kae and Bob, now 96, would have celebrated their 68th anniversary this year. There are two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

“Kae gave birth to her first child at the naval base in Honolulu, having boarded Pan Am’s first commercial flight after World War II and traveled to Hawaii to be with her husband when she had the baby,” said Rain Perry, Herron’s granddaughter. “There was no family housing yet at Pearl Harbor, so Bob had to make a special request.”

The Herron family moved quite a bit throughout the West Coast and East in support of Bob’s career as a salesman of tabulating machines for IBM.

In the late ’60s, they settled in the San Fernando Valley, where Kae Herron began performing with a group led by Jerry Patterson called the Hollywood Clowns. They went on to perform as a duo at dozens of birthday parties, from Pacific Palisades to East Los Angeles.

Wrote more than 100 songs

After her husband retired from IBM, the couple moved to Ventura Marina Mobile Home Park in 1974 and Kae joined the musical variety group The Rhythmettes as a pianist.

“When Kae joined the Rhythmettes, they were a kazoo band,” said Perry, an Ojai resident and award-winning singer-songwriter in her own right. “My grandma wanted to do something more interesting, so she formed the Melodears in 1977.”

Some of the members had musical experience, some none at all, but it didn’t matter to Herron.

“They just needed enthusiasm and a good work ethic,” Perry said, adding that her grandmother wrote sophisticated musical arrangements for vocal quartets, violin trios, melodicas and kazoos. Over the years, the Melodears performed at events and community centers, nursing homes and private parties throughout Ventura County.

“She was always going out and getting paying jobs for them; they called her the benevolent dictator,” Frandsen said. “She did all the arrangements, wrote everything out by hand on sheet music. … She had perfect pitch and a beautiful voice. She wrote over 100 songs.”

In the late 1970s, Kae and Bob Herron wrote “San Buenaventura.” The tune turned out to be very popular with Kae Herron’s audiences, and for many years she performed the song at every Melodears concert, Frandsen said.

“In the mid-1980s, my mom professionally recorded the song and released it on cassette. … She’s sold numerous copies to friends and fans,” she said. “Almost no Melodears concert would go by without a request for this song.”

An excellent tap-dancer

Mickey Knapp of Camarillo met Herron 16 years ago when she joined the Melodears.

“She had the most brilliant mind. … She wrote music and played the organ, barely touching the pedals because she was so little,” recalled Knapp, 81. “She was a remarkable woman.”

In the late ’70s, Herron performed for the public during weekly lunchtime concerts on the Carillon in City Hall, with hourlong performances typically based on a theme, like Christmas, weather or girls’ names.

From Perry’s perspective as a singer-songwriter, her grandmother has been a fundamental influence.

“I learned how to work a crowd, how to wrap a mic cable, how to compose a set list that flows, to be professional yet always gracious,” Perry said. “When I needed to borrow some equipment, I could call my grandmother. Also, she always kept an open mind when it came to music, never judging any new trend.”

Herron also was an excellent tap-dancer throughout her life and through her 90s, Frandsen said.

“She taught a good friend who was only 80 to tap, and the two of them danced together twice a week for fun,” Frandsen said.

In August, Herron performed a song at her mobile home park’s weekly happy hour.

“Without even using the stairs leading to the stage floor, she simply stepped up onto the stage,” recalled Frandsen, adding that her mother took up weight training in 1998 after learning that resistance training reverses osteoporosis and can rebuild bone.

“When her friends asked in amazement how she was able to do this at age 90, my mother said, I’m in weight training,’ ” Frandsen recalled.

“She continued lifting three times a week without fail, performing both upper and lower body strengthening exercises. In 2006, Kae’s bone density was that of a 20-year-old.”

Looking back on her mother’s optimism and zest for life, Frandsen said her legacy will live on.

“When she moved to the retirement community, she saw her life expanding, not shrinking,” Frandsen said.

“Her community — especially older people — were really inspired by the fact that she was always doing something new.”

A memorial service for Kae Herron is scheduled at 11 a.m. Dec. 8 at Ventura Marina Mobile Home Park, 1215 Anchors Way, in the main clubhouse. Lunch will follow.

To RSVP, call Herron’s daughter Robbie at 818-209-8926.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be made to Hermon Community Church, 5718 Monterey Road, Los Angeles 90042. (Designate the Benevolent Fund.)

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25th Nov 2007 Posted in: Blog Comments Off on Rescue Me!

I’m happy to announce the release of a brand new CD called “Rescue Me: Music Benefiting Central Texas Dachshund Rescue.” My track is a cover of an obscure Paul Simon song called “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War.”

Why dachshunds, you ask? Because a friend of mine who loves her dachshunds asked me to contribute a song!

Are there a lot of them roaming loose on the plains of Central Texas? I don’t know! But I do know that this CD has a lot of great songs by wonderful artists, including Sara Hickman, Joel Rafael, Terri Hendrix and Brave Combo!

You can order the CD at Please check it out!

Ruff ruff for now,

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